Life is full of them.
Those lessons that we just don’t know how we’re going to learn, let alone teach as a parent until we’re faced with them.
Death is at the tip-top of that list for me.
Tucker had to learn the heartbreaking life lesson on death last evening head on.
One of the sweet puppies went to puppy heaven last night.
We always let the puppies and Harley out of their pen when we get home so they can run, play and exercise. This isn’t anything new for them. And it wasn’t anything new last night.
I was doing my usual thing in the house, preparing for supper while Tucker played outside with the dogs. In all the chaos that is our evening routine I heard a knock at my front door.
NO ONE EVER KNOCKS ON MY FRONT DOOR.
I knew it was either a complete stranger or Tucker being silly.
I made my way to the door to find a sweet older gentleman looking distraught.
“Ma’am, I think I just hit one of your dogs.”
“Oh, god,” I say.
“I’m so sorry, he just ran out in the road. There was nothing I could do. I’m so sorry. I think he’s still alive, though.”
“Bless, your for stopping,” I say. “Most people would have just driven right on. Bless you for stopping.”
I’m looking around to see who’s missing.
Puppies. I have no idea.
I follow the kind man, who’s now babbling about living out in the country and knowing how cruel people can be.
I make my way around his truck and see his sweet little wife so upset standing over the red puppy we’ve named Red.
She stammers, “I think he’s still alive. At least he was a minute ago. I don’t know, maybe he’s not.”
I take one look at him and know that he’s no longer with us. I’ve seen death in animals enough times in my life to know when their sweet spirits have left this earth.
I kneel down and touch his neck just to make sure.
He’s gone. I was thankful because I didn’t want to have to call my father-in-law to come put him out of his misery. I hate that part.
I tried to console the wife as I knew she was so terribly heartbroken for having been a part of the accident.
I tell them I just need to move him because I don’t want my son to see. All I could think about was trying to explain it to Tucker. I didn’t want him to see the dead puppy. He’s never really had to face death like this.
I pick Red up and carry him gingerly to the yard. I thank the kind couple for stopping and reassure them it wasn’t their fault. It was an accident.
I lay him in my flowerbed and peek around the corner to see where Tucker is. I need to put him in my car so Grady can “take care of him” when he gets home, but I don’t want Tucker to see.
While Tucker plays I took care of business.
I went back inside, called Grady and explained what had happened. I continued with supper trying to work it out in my mind as to how I would approach the subject with Tucker.
He came to the house and asked for something in the car. We made our way outside and after we retrieved what he wanted I sat him down on the deck and told him that Red got hit by a car. He had gone to Heaven to be with Momma Kitty. (A cat we had when we first moved to this house who was attacked by BAD dogs down the road when we were gone.)
“He’s dead, Momma?”
“He got hit by a car, Sweetie.”
“Out on the road in front of the house.”
“Can I see him, Momma?”
“No, Honey. I don’t want to you have to see him. I just want you to remember him when he was alive.”
“I want to see him, Mommy. Where’s he at?”
‘No, Sweetie. He’s in the back of my car waiting for Daddy to come home and bury him.”
I tried to distract him. I tried to get his mind on something else, but it just wasn’t going to happen.
“Mommy, can I please see him?”
I thought and thought about it. I knew Tucker was going to have to learn about death at some point in time. I didn’t want to shelter him from it. Kids in the country usually learn about these things earlier than other kids. Country kids see, first hand, the facts of life up close and personal. I knew about death, life and the birds and the bees long before most of my city friends. We were surrounded by living proof of the circle of life.
So, after about 10 constant requests to see Red I gave in.
I led him out the Explorer, opened the hatch and let him see Red. There was no blood. There wasn’t anything broken or mangled. He simply looked like he was lying there.
“Poor Red. Are you sure he’s dead, Momma?”
“Yes, Honey, see he’s not breathing anymore.”
Tucker leaned down to listen for him breathing. He stroked his hair.
“But his eyes are open.”
“I know, Honey, that happens sometimes when animals die.”
“Can I just sit here and pet him until Daddy gets home?”
“No, honey, let’s go in. Daddy will home soon to bury him.”
“But, Momma, I don’t want to bury him. I want to take him to Heaven.”
I forget how literally minded 4-year-old children are.
“Oh, Honey, he’s already in Heaven. His spirit is there, his body doesn’t go. That’s why we have to bury him.”
I smile at the sweetness Tucker is expressing. I know this is so confusing, but SO important to learn about. I don’t believe in sheltering children from death. It’s such a huge part of LIFE. I think kids need to learn about loss as much as they learn about life. Dealing with the death of a pet will help smooth the path when he has to deal with the death of a family member or loved one.
He cried. His heart was broken at the loss of one of his puppies.
I consoled and tried my best to answer his valid questions.
Daddy came home and we talked about it some more. Grady and I are on the same page with this one. It’s a tough lesson to learn, but we feel like it’s a really important one.
We “bwessed on Red” at our meal time prayer. We “bwessed on Red” at bedtime prayer.
I think it’s safe to say that Red was loved and knows now how much he’ll be missed.
Have fun up there Red. You were a sweet pup!
Peace, love and life lessons.